Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1PanelReview Session 9

A very underrated cult classic and a psychological that really deserves more attention.

What it is: Session 9 

Which is: A psychological horror film
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Year: 2001

Session 9 is a 2001 independent film by The Machinist director Brad Anderson. It's a small budget horror film that stars several familiar faces from the small screen. In fact the entire cast can be narrowed down to our sole main characters, Peter Mullan, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III and CSI star David Caruso (prior to his now-famous role on CSI).

The story follows a small asbestos removal crew hired to clean up an old mental asylum. But things get for the worse as our contractors soon discover the task might be a bit too much for them, and each gets absorbed into this former psychiatric hospital's life.
What's Good about it: It's such a great captivating horror tale. There hasn't been that many psychological thrillers these last few years, this is probably the last most memorable entry into the genre the last decade. A great psychological horror film done right.
The budget was pretty short in this film, there aren't that many actors in the film, but it helps keep things contained. Which really work in the favor of this very claustrophobic tale.
I would even say one of the main characters of the film is the psychiatric hospital itself, it has such a strange creepy eerie atmosphere through the film. It contributes just as much as the actors and really sells the film.
The production of the film got really lucky with it. They didn't even need to build it as Brad Anderson first imagined, they were able to use a real life abandoned psychiatric hospital, the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers. It's the setting for basically the entire film and as much part of the film as our protagonists. Filming on such a beautiful and derelict location certainly helped the story come to life. I'm pretty sure you could just walk with an handheld camera in there and it would be already scary. Sadly the building would be demolished shortly after the release of the film in 2007.
Brad Anderson's first horror film, who had mostly done romantic comedies by this point. He really wanted to explore the genre. Thankfully he found the building (which was actually "unsafe" to film in), which didn't even need any props, he came up with the rest pretty naturally.
Really unique film. Anderson’s attention to the atmosphere and the visuals, the great surreal imagery really sell this story.
I'm personally not a big fan of CSI to be honest, but even so I gotta admit David Caruso was awesome in the film.
All the characters are pretty good, that's really what help good horror films stand out from the rest. Every character's given an occasion to shine and be introduced to the audience. They each grow on you throughout the story. It makes the ending of the film that much more powerful.
The film does a great job at keeping you on your toes, keeping you in the dark (both literally and figuratively) and guessing until the end... On a second view, the experience becomes much more immersive, making you spot details you missed the first time no doubt.
The second half of the film, with the overall darkness taking over and the doubts in the narrative, are probably the closest we'll ever get to unique Silent Hill experience on film - SH films aside (which rely too much on action if you ask me).

What's Bad about it: Like most of these films that rely on surprises and suspense, it does lose some of its impact the second time around.
The film was entirely shot in HD, in fact it was basically the first film to be shot in 24p HD digital video at the time, which might take some getting used to at firt. It comes sort of weird as you try to get used to it.
The film is a bit slow at times, to focused on character study and dialogues. I can imagine this not being up to everyone's taste.
The ending is also pretty divise. But I think it worked nicely into the narrative. They almost went with a completely different (and worse) "clear cut villain" ending, available as a deleted scene on most releases, which would have been far worse.
I would dare say the fact this real property, the Danvers State Mental Hospital being demolished after the film's release to be one of the bad points of the film. It was such a unique construction, a last memory from days gone by. I'm not asking people to renovate it, but it could have been preserved as a landmark!

Overall: Session 9 wasn't a huge success at the time time, but it would go on to become a huge cult favorite phenomenon since then. It's a very immersive experience that has already inspired many other creative minds out there.

What the film might lack in gore it more than makes up for it with his great dark nightmarish tone.

The film is dark, creepy and truly unique. It's the exploration of a past psychiatric hospital with very unique patients through the eyes of every man that slowly get affected one by one by this history. The film has such a great atmosphere!

A cult hit, Highly Recommended for fans of the genre! 

Despite the little  mainstream recognition it received from the general audience, it would leave an impression on several minds and in fact was a huge influence on Konami's Team Silent during the development of Silent Hill 3. The game takes a lot of cues from this film, there are several references and allusions to it spread through that game.
I give it: 2.5 / 3!

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